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Pathobiology of Tennessee 2017 H7N9 low and high pathogenicity avian influenza viruses in commercial broiler breeders and specific pathogen free layer chickens

Kateri Bertran, Dong-Hun Lee, Miria F. Criado, Diane Smith, David E. Swayne, Mary J. Pantin-Jackwood
Veterinary research 2018 v.49 no.1 pp. 82
Influenza A virus, avian influenza, broiler breeders, cloaca, eggs, farms, genetic background, laying hens, monitoring, pathogenesis, pathogenicity, phenotype, specific pathogen-free animals, veterinary medicine, viral shedding, viruses, Tennessee
In March 2017, H7N9 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus was detected in 2 broiler breeder farms in the state of Tennessee, USA. Subsequent surveillance detected the low pathogenicity avian influenza (LPAI) virus precursor in multiple broiler breeder farms and backyard poultry in Tennessee and neighboring states. The pathogenesis of the H7N9 LPAI virus was investigated in commercial broiler breeders, the bird type mostly affected in this outbreak. Infectivity, transmissibility, and pathogenesis of the H7N9 HPAI and LPAI viruses were also studied in 4-week-old specific pathogen free (SPF) leghorn chickens. The mean bird infectious doses (BID₅₀) for the LPAI isolate was 5.6 log₁₀ mean egg infectious dose (EID₅₀) for broiler breeders and 4.3 log₁₀ EID₅₀ for SPF layer chickens, and no transmission to contact-exposed birds was observed. In both bird types, virus shedding was almost exclusively from the oropharyngeal route. These findings suggest sub-optimal adaptation for sustained transmission with the H7N9 LPAI isolate, indicating that factors other than the birds genetic background may explain the epidemiology of the outbreak. The BID₅₀ for the HPAI isolate in SPF layer chickens was more than 2 logs lower (<2 log₁₀ EID₅₀) than the LPAI isolate. Also, the HPAI virus was shed by both the oropharyngeal and cloacal routes and transmitted to contacts. Greater susceptibility and easier transmission of the H7N9 HPAI virus are features of the HP phenotype that could favor the spread of HPAI over LPAI viruses during outbreaks.